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Marcel’s mind raced as he looked up at TriAnna. She had always come to him as an equal, yet she sat upon the stage of this grand palace, surrounded by people who offered their reverence and obedience. He was humbled. In his own world he was nothing more than a simple man. He owned a store, invented clockwork toys and created objects of art. He had no great fortune, no titles or lands. His one claim to fame would be building an interdimensional time machine that accidentally worked.
In her world, he was a stranger.
He looked down at his bare and dirty feet and felt ashamed.
“Thanra Veil,” TriAnna spoke clearly, her voice echoing through the great hall, addressing the leader of Marcel’s captors, “You have summoned the Court of No’tt. What business have you with the Elders?”
The leader removed her mask and shroud. Thanra Veil was tall and broad shouldered, with an impressively muscled body. Her face was covered with what appeared to be an elaborate tattoo, giving her forehead and eyes the impression of scales. Her hair was cropped short and stuck out in all directions, fashioned into waves like tongues of fire. She had the same effervescent quality that Marcel had come to recognize in TriAnna, a way of catching the light and changing color and shape, like a flame.
“Many respects to Our Graces TriAnna,” Thanra replied in a confident tone, bowing her head, “I beg audience as I fear the safety of the Lands of Lys. Upon our hillside has come a stranger. I have observed him and find him a threat. Long has the Father been absent and my requests have been ignored. Today, I bring the Intruder before you…”
“So he is?” TriAnna asked, smiling under her helm.
“He is?” Thanra stood proudly and Marcel shared her confusion.
“An intruder?” TriAnna said politely. “I see him here,” TriAnna gestured to Marcel who stood before her, his hands still raised, “He is surrounded by your Dreki Guard. Unless I am mistaken, one must intrude upon something in order to be a so-called intruder. This man appears to have been escorted. Escorted, against his will by the looks of his feet.”
A murmur went through the room, and TriAnna sweetly raised her hand bringing silence.
Thanra Veil shifted her weight, a look of defiance in her eyes, “We believe him to be a scout. We know not from where. He has a strange vehicle upon the mountain side.”
Marcel’s heart raced in his chest. He realized that had been brought before the ruling class of Lys for judgement. He struggled to understand the events surrounding him and looked to TriAnna for reassurance. The helm of her office hid her eyes and without their light he felt uncertain.
“A scout?” Trianna stated unconcerned, “Have you observed him wandering the countryside making maps? Have you heard him making reports to others of his kind about our defenses or resources?”
Thanra’s face was starting to show a deep red glow under her golden skin, “”No, your Grace.”
“You feel that this man is a threat to the people, and this is of concern to you. Concern enough to call upon the Father, and to assemble the Court in his absence. Please then, give Us reason to understand your actions. I am certain you must have great proof, and We have need to hear of it when all of the Kingdom may be at risk.” TriAnna tone was soft but also suggested irritation with the woman before her.
A long and pregnant pause passed over the grand hall, TriAnna kindly offering Thanra an extensive opportunity to explain herself. Thanra shifted her weight uncomfortably, seeming to want to say something but lacking the courage.
The Elders of the room began to speak softly amongst one another as they grew impatient for a reply. When it was clear that Thanra would fail to speak, TriAnna continued.
“Long has it been the responsibility of the Graces of Dagur to protect the people of Lys.” her voice was clear and direct, ” Do you believe that We have not been aware of this traveler’s presence? Do you doubt that he has been observed and found to be of no threat? Do you question Our wisdom that the man is a welcome guest upon our lands to be treated with dignity, not paraded through Our streets without even his shoes?”
TriAnna’s voice was cool and controlled and Marcel felt a wave of pride in her decorum.
“Chose your words carefully, Thanra Veil.”
TriAnna and the members of the Court waited silently for the woman to reply.
Thanra had gone crimson and her lip seemed to curl, and effect that, when combined with her tattoos, was terrifying. Behind Marcel the troop of warriors TriAnna had called the Dreki Guard fell to their knees in shame.
This act of defiance on the part of her warriors enraged Thanra and in an explosion of emotion she spoke the words that she had been holding back, “We believe Your Graces have developed…affections… for the man…”
An outcry spread through the court, voices instantly calling out all around Marcel. Upon her throne TriAnna remained calm and demure, unaffected by the accusation. Voices continued to build to a cacophony, and Thanra Veil looked around the room smiling triumphantly.
The outrage continued until a deafening sound, like the furling of a roaring bellows shook the ground beneath them all.
The members of the Court fell to the ground silent and prostrate. Marcel tried to move, but found himself frozen in place as if by some magic. Thanra, too seemed to be locked in her position and the smile she had been so eager to cast around the room had melted into pure terror.
TriAnna remained upon her throne, pleasantly smiling and unaffected.
Great thunderous footsteps moved through the halls, until at last Marcel could see a massive snake like body, covered in scales the color of a moonless sky. He moved like a shadow over the court, his footfalls proud and majestic. The dragon’s eyes were set like two diamonds in his massive head, and he looked over his people with kindness as he approached. Marcel stood in awe, having never imagined such grace possible in any creature. A massive pair of leathery wings stretched momentarily over the room and then folded into his sides. Marcel noticed that under one wing there was an opening of crimson and he understood with overwhelming respect that he was witnessing the return of a Great Warrior King.
As the dragon made his way to the empty throne beside her, TriAnna stood and lowered her head in respect, and stated, “Welcome home, Father.”
The massive black dragon curled his great claws around the back of the seat, more perched than seated, and adjusted his coiled body.
TriAnna resumed her seat beside him and motioned for the Court to rise.
Once the Court settled, the dragon lowered his head with respect to them all, and Marcel felt a wave of reverence.
“Marcel Ghostraven,” the dragon’s voice boomed, “I am the One who became Two, No’tt. Father of All. I welcome you to my realm. I am saddened that you join us in such grave times, but I feel that there is much you will be able to offer my people. For that I give you my gratitude.” The great dragon No’tt lowered his head to Marcel respectfully.
Marcel stood in awe of everything happening around him, he had no idea what the King meant or why he would offer his thanks. Marcel did know, in the depth of his heart that he would do whatever he could to help TriAnna and her people if it were necessary.
Marcel needed to respond, but could form no words in his stupor, his mouth hung agape. This made TriAnna smile warmly and he wondered if No’tt shared her empathic ability. If so Marcel was certain his heart had spoken clearly for him.
No’tt turned his great head and addressed Thanra Veil directly. Her face was pale and her eyes averted. “It is an act of treason to question the Graces who have ever protected and served Our people. However. I see in your heart no malice, only fear for the safety of your neighbor,” Marcel could see tears on Thanra’s cheeks and he sensed a wash of relief move through her.
“However,” the King continued, “There is also pride, and a misunderstanding of hospitality and friendship. For this, you are sentenced. From this day forward you shall serve at the feet of our guest, Marcel Ghostraven. You shall show him nothing but the deepest kindness as befits our great kingdom.”
Panic seized Marcel. He was certain it was a feeling shared with his new…valet? His eyes were wide but he knew he could not protest. He looked to TriAnna for help, but he became immediately aware that she was too deeply amused to be sympathetic.
“My people,” the dragon addressed the court, “I have urgent need to speak with TriAnna and our visitor. I beg your forgiveness. I shall speak with you all very soon.”
Marcel stood confused as the great room emptied. Thanra remained at his side uncomfortably. When it was just the four of them, Marcel suddenly realized that he had a new role to play. One that King No’tt and TriAnna were waiting patiently for him to understand so that they might carry on with business.
Marcel looked to the disgraced Thanra and said awkwardly, “Um. Dismissed?”